PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (WFIE/Butler Univ.) - It was 22 months ago when Butler last knocked off a team ranked in the "Top 25." That streak ended on Wednesday (Nov. 26) when the Bulldogs upset #5 North Carolina, 74-66, in the opening game of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Heroes for the still-unbeaten Bulldogs (4-0)? There were plenty.
Senior Alex Barlow helped Butler to a strong first half start with 11 points. He then hit two big three-point field goals in the first minute of the second half to give the Bulldogs a lead they never relinquished. The Butler guard finished with 17 points.
Senior Kameron Woods pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds and helped Butler to a 57-40 advantage on the boards. The 6-9 forward had eight of Butler's 29 offensive rebounds, the most ever against a Roy Williams-coached Carolina team.
Freshman Kelan Martin came off the bench and matched Barlow for team scoring honors with 17 points, 12 of which came after intermission.
Junior Roosevelt Jones turned in his usual all-around game, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and a game-high six assists. Most importantly, he connected on four consecutive free throws in the final minutes to help Butler hold off the comeback attempt by the Tar Heels.
And junior scoring leader Kellen Dunham shook off a slow start to finish with 11 points including four in the final 90 seconds.
"When you play a team like North Carolina that's really well-coached and has terrific talent, you better be prepared for a battle, and I think our guys were," said Butler coach Chris Holtmann after the stunning win.
"I just can't give enough credit to our guys. They really, really followed the game plan. Our assistant coaches did an unbelievable job of preparing our guys with a defensive plan and a way that we wanted to attack them. I've said it from the beginning of the year, we have really tough guys and I think that was displayed today."
The victory was Butler's first over a ranked team since Jan. 19, 2013, when the Bulldogs defeated #8 Gonzaga, 64-63, on a shot at the buzzer by Jones.
Jones gave Butler a quick 2-0 lead against North Carolina, but the Tar Heels (3-1) maintained an advantage for most of the first half. The potent North Carolina squad built a four-point lead on three different occasions in the first 20 minutes and led 35-32 at halftime.
Butler Barlow erased that lead at the start of the second half. He tied the game at 35-35 with his third three-pointer of the game 25 seconds into the final period, and then, after a basket by North Carolina's Brice Johnson, he gave Butler the lead for good with his fourth three-pointer.
"We knew as a team that we had to come out and have a good start to the second half," said Barlow. "North Carolina is too good a team and if they get on a role they can put it away quickly. I was lucky enough to hit a couple of shots and the fans got some juice and the players got some juice and we kept playing from there. (The start) gave us some confidence."
The Bulldogs stretched their lead to as many as 14 points on a free throw by Martin with just over eight minutes remaining, before North Carolina mounted a final run. The Tar Heels chipped away at Butler's lead, eventually cutting the margin to three points, 69-66, on a conventional three-point play by preseason Player of the Year Marcus Paige.
But the Bulldogs held on with five free throws in the final 30 seconds. Sophomore Andrew Chrabascz hit the first and then Dunham and Martin each added a pair.
Butler shot just 30.6% (22-72) for the game and just 32.1% (9-28) from the three-point arc, but the strong performance on the offensive boards and a solid defensive effort helped the Bulldogs pull off the upset. The Tar Heels entered the game averaging 89.7 points over their initial three wins.
Paige led North Carolina with 18 points, while Johnson added 11.
The victory was Butler's second over the Tar Heels in three years. The Bulldogs also defeated North Carolina, then ranked #9, in the second round of the 2012 Maui Invitational.
The Bulldogs advance to the semifinals against Oklahoma, ranked #21 in the coaches' "Top 25." That game will be played a 1 p.m. (ET) and be televised on ESPN.